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The Syrian Refugee Crisis


Kevin Sartin | Theology Columnist

The Syrian refugee crisis
is not only a conundrum for
the policy makers in Washington
D.C. and the state
governors in their columned
mansions, it is a difficult issue
to sort out for the ministers
in the pulpit and the
people in the pew as well. My
encouragement to believers
grappling with the correct
response to the Syrian refugee
crisis is simply this – let’s
start the conversation by
asking the correct question.
The right question for
Christ-followers is not “who
is responsible for this crisis?”
Sure, we can ask that
question and other questions
related to assigning
blame for the current instability
in Syria and in the larger
Middle Eastern region. Is
our country’s administration
culpable when it comes to
the plight of these refugees?
The religious freedom that
Syria enjoyed under President
Assad certainly seems
preferable in hindsight to the
220,000 plus lives lost since
the beginning of the Syrian
civil war and the estimated
6.5 million Syrian who are
currently displaced within
the country and the nearly
4 million displaced without.
But assigning blame won’t
help the millions of Syrians
who need help now, and it
won’t answer our questions
of how we should respond
to this issue.
The right question for
Christ-followers is not
“what’s best for the security
of our country?” This
sounds anti-patriotic, and it
will probably earn me a few
enemies, but I stand by my
conviction that I am a citizen
of God’s kingdom before I
am a citizen of the United
States of America. I love my
country. I believe that we live
in the greatest nation in the
world in terms of the freedoms
that we enjoy and the
opportunities that we are
afforded. I have ancestors
on both sides of my family
who fought in some of the
great conflicts our nation
has participated in. I have
traveled to other countries
on other continents and I
have seen first-hand how
other people live, which
has stirred up in me an even
greater sense of gratitude for
the fact that God allowed me
to be born a citizen of this
great nation. But even with
all of that being said, followers
of Jesus Christ have a
citizenship that supersedes
that of the United States of
America, and so it would be
very possible to act in a way
that would be in the best
interests of the United States
of America but that would
be dishonoring to God and
disobedient to His commands.
Do I believe it would
ever be right to intentionally
subject the innocent citizens
of our country to unnecessary
danger or even harm?
No, I do not. But at the same
time, do I have the right
to disregard the plight of a
fellow human being simply
because they are not a citizen
of this country? National
interests cannot be the endall
for Christ-followers here
or anywhere.
The right question for
believers should be “what
response will honor God the
most?” What response to
the Syrian refugee crisis will
be most in accordance with
the truth of God’s word concerning
how His children are
to live, and to treat others?
This is a hard question to ask
and an even more difficult
question to answer. Remember,
God is the one who commanded
His people in the
Old Testament to “show love
to foreigners, for you were
once foreigners in Egypt.”
The God-man Jesus is the
one in the New Testament
who revealed that the command
to “love your neighbor
as yourself” was second only
to “love the Lord your God
with all your heart” in importance.
That same Jesus’
life of self-denying love – the
kind of love that sent Him
to earth as a servant and to
the cross as a sacrifice – is
the example that is held up
as the ultimate model for all
of His followers to emulate
with their lives. And to
quote the apostle John from
his first epistle, if we possess
the world’s resources yet
are unwilling to use those
resources to meet the needs
of a brother, we are guilty of
“closing our heart” against
our brother, and we are
calling into question the
authenticity of our status
as a follower of Christ and a
child of God.
Of course, spiritual platitudes
and hypothetical
responses are easy. The
real test for any potential
refugee-welcomer would be
this: Would I be comfortable
with ten thousand Syrian
refugees inside the borders
of my state? How about a
few hundred making their
homes inside the boundaries
of my city? What about a
few sleeping under my roof
with my family? Answer
that, and you’ll have your
answer to how you really
feel about what should be
done for Syrian refugees.
As for me, I don’t pretend
to have answers to how this
terrible humanitarian crisis
should be solved. But I do
have what I believe is the
right place to begin the discussion,
and that is simply
by asking the right question
– how can I respond to this
crisis in a way that will honor
God, that will bring Him
glory, and that will show that
my greatest treasure lies not
in my comfort and security,
my safety or my citizenship,
but in Him and in my status
as His child?